What's the Commotion on Chlorella?

Chlorella: It’s not what led to the demise of your family in the Oregon Trail videogame. (That would be "cholera.") Chlorella is actually one of those “superfoods” you keep hearing so much about. Specifically, it is a green, unicellular microalgae that packs an extra nutritional punch. It will also turn your tongue green.

Chlorella was supposed to revolutionize the agriculture industry post-World War II. It’s a familiar story. With the world’s population set to skyrocket, the agriculture industry was struggling to produce enough food. Scientists thought they would need new, alternative food sources to feed a growing, global population. Chlorella was a possible solution to this problem. However, according to the FAO, cultivating microalgae on a commercial level is not yet a reality, and a lot more research and development is needed. Algal production systems (even simple ones) are expensive, and we need to know more about selecting and maintaining algal strains in cultivation systems. 

So what makes chlorella so healthful? Chlorella can be taken in pill, tablet or powder form. It’s chock full of proteins, omega-3's, polysaccharides, vitamins, minerals and components suchChlorella as lutein. Some studies also suggest that chlorella can help alleviate hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat particles in the blood), hyperglycemia (excess levels of glucose in the bloodstream), and oxidative stress, (an imbalance between the amount of free radicals in the body and antioxidant defenses). Much research has found that oxidative stress, caused by cigarette smoke, is ameliorated by chlorella supplementation in otherwise healthy smokers.

In addition to modulating inflammation, chlorella has been shown to improve red blood cell antioxidant status and may help prevent senile dementia. Chlorella supplementation also enhances "natural killer cells," key players in our immune systems.

Despite the nutritional and health benefits of consuming chlorella, we just don’t know enough yet about how to take it. Proper dosage depends on several factors, including age, health, and other conditions. Right now there is not enough scientific research to support a recommended range of doses. The studies listed above used doses in the range of 3 to 8 grams of chlorella per day. Be sure to consult with your health care provider before you begin using chlorella.

Finally, let’s set the record straight on “superfoods." Yes, foods such as kale, blueberries, cocoa and quinoa offer nutritional benefits and are great additions to a balanced and diverse diet. You can even add chlorella to this list. But what’s more important is the diversity of your diet. Avoid limiting your diet to these just a few “superfoods” and instead eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, some types of seafood, and fortified foods and beverages.

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